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Friday, February 8, 2013

The Coaching Carousel: A Look Forward to the 2013 NFL Season

Now that the Super Bowl and the 2012 NFL Season is behind us, ASI guest blogger, Joe Darrah, takes a look at the newly assigned coaches with an eye towards what these placements could mean for the 2013 season.

The NFL’s coaching carousel came to a halt recently when the Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to a four-year contract. After a rather pedestrian series of acquisitions following Kansas City’s first splash into the coaches’ “free agent” pool by handing the reigns over to its fourth head coach since 1996 in Andy Reid, who had been the league’s longest-tenured, well, NFL chief at that point, things certainly took a turn for the dramatic over a 48-hour period Jan. 16-17 — when Reid’s former flagship in Philadelphia went from on the verge of hiring Bradley to shocking the league and the University of Oregon by agreeing to terms with Ducks’ head coach Chip Kelly, who had interviewed well with the Birds soon after winning the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 4 before “re-committing” himself to the school. Seemingly in stride, Bradley would then fly Florida to interview with Jaguar brass and nab a job that was speculated to go to San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman after the 49ers still current postseason run concluded. But in a league that is more “what have you done for me lately” than any other, Bradley’s interview was so compelling that new general manager David Caldwell didn’t want to wait a few extra weeks to make a hire. 

In the time between Reid’s settlement in KC, Kelly’s second “de-commitment” to Oregon in as many years and Bradley’s contract signing in the “River City,” five other teams also completed new coaching hires (Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland and San Diego) that didn’t make as much of a blip on the NFL radar or gain quite the number of headlines — unless you count the reports that claim Mike McCoy fell out of grace just as quickly with the Eagles as he likely has with Denver fans after the Broncos’ uninspired offensive performance in the AFC divisional playoff against Baltimore Jan. 12 — as did Kelly, Bradley, or even Reid for that matter. However, they’ll all be held equally to task improving their respective squads without there being too much leniency during the transition. Here are my takes on how successful each may be, ranking them in order of how much each team should fare in 2013:

Chicago Bears - Trestman:  Sure, Trestman is nearly nine years removed from his last NFL job as an assistant coach with Miami, but he brings with him a fine resume of NFL accomplishments, especially related to his work with quarterbacks. He twice coordinated the No. 1 passing offense in the league (with Steve Young and the 49ers in 1995 and Rich Gannon and the Raiders in 2002), led two franchises to AFC title games as an offensive coordinator (2002 Raiders and 1989 Browns) and taking the same 2002 Raiders to the Super Bowl, though not really engineering a good showing there. Still, he managed success with the likes of Scott Mitchell in Detroit and Jake Plummer with the Cardinals, a good indication that he’ll be in fine shape with Jay Cutler and a Bears team that won 10 games in 2012. If Chicago holds onto the majority of its key potential unrestricted free agents on the defensive side (namely linebacker Brian Urlacher, tackle Henry Melton and lineman Israel Idonije), expect a new, more-highly powered offense to better compete with Green Bay and Detroit (is Minnesota really for real?) and be back in the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers - McCoy:  With apologies to the “agonized” fan base in Philly, there isn’t likely any city out there where “addition by subtraction” is more of a rallying cry than in Charger country. Despite his overwhelmingly productive stint as an offensive coordinator for two-time champion Dallas in 1992 and 1993, and a few stellar seasons during his 2007-12 head coaching tenure in San Diego (going 13-3 in 2009 and pulling off a five-game winning streak, including the postseason, to advance to the divisional round the year prior), I can’t help but think that Norv Turner will be remembered much like he is in Washington (1994-2000) and Oakland (2004-05) — for his teams’ ultimate failures and inconsistent play. As it stands, McCoy inherits a nice crop of offensive skill players all over the field and should have his squad challenge for a wildcard spot next season, which could be a make-or-break campaign for quarterback Philip Rivers.

Kansas City Chiefs - Reid:  In some ways, Kelly walks into yet another town that’s truly just happy with change for the moment. But, then again, this is Philly; and for unsuccessful head football coaches it can be a virtual hell pit. Kelly should initiate a much better showing for an Eagles team that is quite peculiar in that it has a lot of glaring weaknesses yet seems to have enough pieces in place to be closer to elite than the cellar. If he utilizes Shady McCoy the way an “arguably the best running back in the NFL” should be and has the benefit of a healthy offensive line, it’s not hard to see the Eagles back in the playoffs in 2013. However, with questions remaining at quarterback (will he draft one as well?), even with the thought that Michael Vick won’t be part of the equation, it’s more probable that Philadelphia will lose some high-scoring games while the defense continues to be rebuilt and Kelly tinkers with his system to accommodate Nick Foles or a player to be named later. That should keep Philly content for a calendar year. Maybe. It’s definitely possible that it could. 

Buffalo Bills - Doug Marrone:  Another coach that should have tempered expectations in the general sense as he’s jumping from college to pro ball, Marrone will probably have a shorter learning curve given that he’s taking over a team that expected to be in the playoffs “yesterday.” Like Rivers and McCoy, it will be interesting to see who has the longer leash with the Bills — Marrone or QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Marrone has brought in ‘offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett with him from Syracuse to devote his time to the maligned signal caller, who has proven to light up the stat sheet and fantasy football scoreboards on a fairly regular basis without it translating to postseason success. Likewise, Buffalo has brought on Jets’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to try his hand at fixing the league’s 22-ranked defense, giving Marrone proven coaching commodities to help him pull an already talented team a little further. Let’s call them wild card contenders on the basis that they’ll win at least eight in 2013, even if Marrone isn’t solely credited with miracle-working.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Bradley:  If nothing else, Bradley’s Seahawks had the ability to control games particularly due to its style and attitude (on top of the raw talent, yes). If nothing else, an attitude adjustment is exactly what this squad needs (on top of more raw talent, yes). A terrible team in every sense of the word (OK, Cecil Shorts is a stud and Chad Henne can at least let people forget about Blaine Gabbert temporarily), the Jags should at least be a markedly better defensive team in 2013, which suddenly puts you in position to win more games. They won’t win enough to play more than 16, but if Maurice Jones-Drew sticks around (and has enough in him to remain a concern to opposing defenses) don’t be surprised to see a Jeff Fisher-like induced rebirth a la St. Louis that gives more of a warm, fuzzy feeling in the stands as opposed to nausea. And if that doesn’t happen, maybe everyone can start talking about the Tim Tebow possibility again.

Cleveland Browns - Chudzinski:  The one-time Brown offensive coordinator gets another shot in Cleveland with a more talented, younger nucleus on offense in QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson, and gets the “OC” version of the aforementioned Turner, so optimism for at least minor improvement is there. But, really, how good can Weeden be given that there’s not a formidable receiving corps? There’s still more questions than answers, but with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton also brought in; there’s an established presence to assist the first-time head coach. How will former Eagles’ salary cap wizard Joe Banner spend the team’s money? Will he care enough about keeping a decent defense intact?

Arizona Cardinals - Bruce Arians:  Arians is clearly a media darling and a great person to admire in light of the situation he was handed and thrived in with Indianapolis a year ago. But let’s not gloss over that he had Andrew Luck, a player who would make any team better from the jump, and that he’s essentially walking into the NFL’s version of JV quarterbacks (seriously, Larry Fitzgerald, sticking your neck out for Kevin Kolb?) in the desert. Still, a lot of times winning and losing in the NFL comes down to staying appropriately prepared and mentally in check, so don’t look past Arians there. Then again, age and time are not on his side, neither is his lone head coaching track record (21-45 at Temple from 1983-88). He loses a solid defensive coordinator in Horton to Cleveland, so leaning on that unit won’t be likely. Despite temperatures out there, the heart-warming Arian's story could turn chilly pretty quick.

copyright 2013 Joe Darrah All RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. Nice analysis. Being a Cardinal fan, I do wish that they had hired Horton as the head coach, but the Cardinals are always strange when it comes to hiring head coaches. I think the Trestman hire is the most interesting. I think it could work.

  2. Thanks, Mark. Yeah, I'm not too high on the Cards right now. I'm really still more concerned that their best player convinced them to invest in Kolb. Maybe they're rolling the dice on Arians for now and if it flames out making a run at Lovie Smith. really too early and unfair to speculate that, but I just think of all teams who needed a new coach AZ was the one that should have played the "younger" card just because. This surprised me.